“Nuke could wipe Israel out in seconds”; “Saudis give nod to Israeli raid on Iran”

July 05, 2009

* Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. in July 4 address: an Iranian atomic bomb could “accomplish in a matter of seconds what the regime denies Hitler did, and kill six million Jews, literally”
* Israeli, Saudi officials discuss Israel using Saudi airspace to hit Iranian nuclear sites
* Ha’aretz: In a complete reversal of the Bush era, European leaders are now pushing for greater sanctions on Iran, while Obama is set to oppose them at G8 summit
* Aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader calls Mir Hossein Mousavi a “U.S. agent”

This dispatch concerns events in Iran and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

 

CONTENTS

1. “Nuke could wipe Israel out in seconds”
2. “Saudis give nod to Israeli raid on Iran”
3. Ha’aretz: Obama to block Iran sanctions at G8 summit while Europeans push for them
4. Israel approaches a moment of decision on Iran’s nuclear threat
5. Iran pursues doctor who tried to save murdered female student
6. Iranian media: “England’s Queen Elizabeth II burns Iran”
7. Newsweek’s Iran correspondent “confesses”
8. Former Spanish PM: “No excuse for Obama’s passivity on Iran”
9. The lesson of “The Stoning of Soraya M.”
10. “Bibi’s Choice” (By Peter Berkowitz, The Weekly Standard, July 13, 2009 issue)
11. “Silence has consequences for Iran” (By Jose Maria Aznar, WSJ, June 27, 2009)
12. “Iran and the tragedy of bad ideas” (By Andrew Klavan, WSJ, June 23, 2009)


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

“NUKE COULD WIPE ISRAEL OUT IN SECONDS”

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, warned over the weekend that an Iranian atomic bomb could “wipe Israel off the map in a matter of seconds,” and that the Iranians could “accomplish in a matter of seconds what they denied Hitler did, and kill six million Jews, literally.”

Oren was speaking over the July 4 American holiday weekend at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado.

Oren, who is a subscriber to this email list, also said he believed U.S. President Barack Obama had “the best interests of the U.S. and the interest of Israel at heart” when confronting the Iranian nuclear program but added that Israel was concerned mainly about the “timing and timeline” of Obama’s strategy.

On a lighter note, Oren also remarked that statistically Israel enjoys the second highest longevity rate in the world, bettered only by Japan, and urged American Jews: “Come to Israel and live long.”

 

“SAUDIS GIVE NOD TO ISRAELI RAID ON IRAN”

London’s Sunday Times today reports what I have previously reported on this website, that Saudi officials have let it be known to the Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence service, that the kingdom would turn a blind eye to Israeli jets flying over its airspace during any future raid on Iranian nuclear sites. Earlier this year Meir Dagan, whose term as Mossad’s director has just been extended, held secret talks with Saudi officials to discuss the possibility, reports the Times.

The Israeli press has already carried reports that high-ranking Israelis, including Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister, have held meetings with Saudi colleagues over the last two years. These reports have been denied by Saudi Arabia.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have no formal diplomatic relations but share a vital common interest in preventing the Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons. Arab states would almost certainly condemn any Israeli raid when they spoke at the UN but would be privately overjoyed to see the threat of an Iranian bomb removed.

As indicated at various times in past dispatches on this list, the Israeli air force has been training for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear sites.

I can also now reveal that Saudi Arabia cooperated with Israel in ways that have not been made public in the war in the summer of 2006 between Israel and the Iranian-controlled Shi’ite militia Hizbullah.

UPDATE: A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this evening called The Sunday Times report “baseless.” A denial is, of course, to be expected.

 

HA’ARETZ: OBAMA TO BLOCK IRAN SANCTIONS AT G8 SUMMIT WHILE EUROPEANS PUSH FOR THEM

In a complete reversal of Bush era policies, when the U.S. led the way in trying to persuade reluctant European allies to impose more stringent financial sanctions on Iran, it is now the U.S. that is blocking European attempts to impose a new round of sanctions against Iran that is due to be discussed at the G8 summit next week. This disclosure by diplomatic officials in New York appeared in the Israeli paper Ha’aretz on Friday.

According to these officials, sanctions against Iran are expected to top the G8’s agenda. Sources are also predicting a heated debate between the heads of the industrialized nations over an appropriate response to Iran’s suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations last month.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and others are pushing for sanctions, while “diplomatic sources in New York say that American officials are working behind the scenes to prevent new sanctions from being imposed against Iran,” reports Ha’aretz.

The Obama administration has been telling other G-8 diplomats that they feel the sanctions will “backfire”, driving Iran away from the negotiating table, where Obama thinks he can talk Iran’s mullahs out of their nuclear weapons. Many in the U.S. and elsewhere believe Obama’s strategy is dangerously misguided.

 

ISRAEL APPROACHES A MOMENT OF DECISION ON IRAN’S NUCLEAR THREAT

I attach three articles below. The first, from the new edition of The Weekly Standard, is written by Peter Berkowitz, who is a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, and a longtime subscriber to this email list.

Reporting from Tel Aviv, Berkowitz interviewed over a dozen senior Israeli intelligence and security officials as well as other political analysts and commentators (including myself) for this article. Most of the interviewees in the article are unnamed.

This is one of the most accurate and informed pieces to appear in the international media on Israel’s attitude to the Iranian nuclear threat and I suggest you read it in full.

The only person that Berkowitz spoke to with whom I would respectfully disagree is former Mossad head Efraim Halevy, who is also a subscriber to this email list, and who warned that an Israeli attack would “change the whole configuration of the Middle East,” producing “a chasm between Israel and the rest of the region” that would have “effects that would last 100 years.”

 

IRAN PURSUES DOCTOR WHO TRIED TO SAVE MURDERED FEMALE STUDENT

Iran’s police chief says a doctor who was present at the death of a young Iranian woman during opposition street protests in Tehran is under investigation by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence.

Police Chief Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam told reporters in Tehran that the shooting of Neda Agha-Soltan “was a pre-planned scenario” to harm Iran’s image. Dr. Arash Hejazi, 37, who treated Neda at the scene, said he saw a member of the regime’s Basij militia kill her.

Neda, a 26-year-old music student, was shot during a peaceful pro-reform march on June 20. Neda has since become an icon among those protesting what are widely believed to be the rigged results of the June 12 presidential election.

You can see Dr. Hejazi trying to help Neda during her last moments in the fourth video on this dispatch.

 

IRANIAN MEDIA: “ENGLAND’S QUEEN ELIZABETH II BURNS IRAN”

In an article headlined, “Bloody Footsteps of England in Latest Riots of Iran,” the pro-Iranian government Jahan News claims that a (in fact nonexistent -- TG) pre-election warning by the British Foreign Office to British citizens that they should expect unrest in the wake of Iran’s presidential elections is conclusive proof that the British planned the post-election unrest. Jahan News also accuses Arash Hejazi – an Iranian student studying in Britain – of having masterminded the killing of Neda Agha-Soltan.

The article is in Persian here, and even those of you who don’t understand the text can look with alarm at the caricature of Britain’s Union Jack flag.

Jahan also features a caricature of Queen Elizabeth II presiding over the burning of Iran.

 

NEWSWEEK’S IRAN CORRESPONDENT “CONFESSES”

According to Iran’s English-language propaganda arm, Press TV, Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari has confessed that he released “false and biased” reports of the post-election situation in Iran, and admitted that “Western journalists are an inseparable part of the capitalist machine of the West.”

Staff at Newsweek tell me that they believe Bahari, who is the magazine’s longstanding correspondent in the country and is himself Iranian, was tortured prior to his “confession”. Bahari remains in Iranian custody, his whereabouts unknown.

In a separate item reported on Press TV, a senior aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader called opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi a “U.S. agent”.

Among the British citizens being paid salaries to present programs on Press TV are:

* Lauren Booth, half-sister of Cherie Blair, the wife of Tony Blair. Booth has on many occasions compared Israel to the Nazis
* Yvonne Ridley, the Sunday Express reporter who converted to Islam following her capture by the Taliban in Afghanistan; and
* British MP George Galloway, infamous for (among other things) his face-to-face eulogizing of the late Saddam Hussein.

Press TV’s website regularly carries articles denying the Holocaust by Western “experts”.

 

FORMER SPANISH PM: “NO EXCUSE FOR OBAMA’S PASSIVITY ON IRAN”

In the second full article attached below, Jose Maria Aznar, the prime minister of Spain from 1996 to 2004, writes:

“If there hadn’t been dissidents in the Soviet Union, the Communist regime never would have crumbled. And if the West hadn’t been concerned about their fate, Soviet leaders would have ruthlessly done away with them. The same is true of Iran today.

“President Obama has said he refuses to ‘meddle’ in Iran’s internal affairs, but this is a poor excuse for passivity… To be clear: Nobody in the circles of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei or Ahmadinejad is going to reward us for silence or inaction. On the contrary, failing to support the regime’s critics will leave us with an emboldened Ahmadinejad, an atomic Iran, and dissidents that are disenchanted and critical of us.”

 

THE LESSON OF “THE STONING OF SORAYA M.”

In the third article below, novelist Andrew Klavan writes about the film “The Stoning of Soraya M.,” which recounts the true story of the brutal judicial murder of a woman falsely accused of adultery in Iran. Having, as a woman, no right to defend herself, she was horrifically stoned to death in accordance with Sharia law – one of an untold number of Iranian women to suffer such a fate.

He writes: “Too many Western intellectuals are ensnared in a bad idea. That idea is multiculturalism – the notion that no system or government is inherently better than any other, that the rules of morality are just a doctrine written by history’s winners. Thus there are no enduring human truths, only ‘narratives’ by which almost any beastliness can be explained away if committed by a people with a claim to having been victimized by a dominant culture. This bad idea has all but silenced our nation at a moment when the world most needs our voice.”

-- Tom Gross

 

Among previous recent dispatches on the Iranian nuclear issue, please see:

* “Why Israel will bomb Iran” (& “The myth of meaningful Iranian retaliation”)
* “Obama, and the world, in 2012, after he fails to deal with Iran”
* Mossad’s hidden successes against Iran so far – but they are not enough


FULL ARTICLES

BIBI’S CHOICE

Bibi’s Choice: Israel approaches a moment of decision on Iran’s nuclear threat
By Peter Berkowitz
The Weekly Standard
July 13, 2009 issue

Tel Aviv -- Don’t be misled by how little was said about Iran in the major speeches recently delivered by President Barack Obama at Cairo University and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Bar-Ilan University. And don’t suppose, either, that the popular upheaval precipitated by Iran’s rigged presidential election, assuming it falls short of ending the mullahs’ 30-year tyranny, will fundamentally alter regional politics. The central question for Middle East politics is still what to do about Iran’s illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Nor is this a regional matter only. Iran’s determination to acquire nuclear weapons, the better to spread Islamic revolution, affects the vital national security interests not only of Israel, Arab states in and beyond the Gulf, and Turkey, but also of the United States, Europe, Russia, and indeed countries around the world that depend on stability in the international political and economic order, which is to say virtually all.

In his address to the Muslim world, President Obama identified six sources of tension between the United States and Islam. Number three was “our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.” On the campaign trail and in the presidential debates, Obama unequivocally opposed Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. But in Cairo in late May, on his carefully constructed global stage, Obama hedged.

On the one hand, he maintained that it was crucial to begin talks with Iran without preconditions because of the importance of “preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.” He “strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons.” And he expressed the hope that nations that were pursuing their “right to access to peaceful nuclear power” would not abuse it by violating their “responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.” On the other hand, and watering down candidate Obama’s promise to “keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel,” he opined that “no single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons.” And he offered no reason to believe that the United States had any levers at its disposal other than talk to influence Iran’s decision. All in all, it would have been hard to project to a rapt world greater equivocation concerning Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons if the president had deliberately concentrated his vaunted rhetorical gifts on the task.

To be sure, in his own speech in mid-June, Prime Minister Netanyahu also trod lightly on the subject of Iran. But that was because he needed to respond to Obama’s flawed Cairo statement that Israel’s legitimacy flows from the suffering of the Jewish people in the Holocaust and the president’s erroneous suggestion that the key to peace in the Middle East is Israel’s cessation of building in existing Israeli communities beyond the Green Line. Without mentioning the president or his speech, Netanyahu stressed that the Jewish people’s historic connection to the land of Israel extends back 3,500 years. And by affirming that Palestinians should have a state of their own, Netanyahu took another step on the path he himself blazed in 1998 by signing the Wye Accords and turning over Hebron to the Palestinians, a path on which he was subsequently joined by Prime Ministers Sharon and Olmert and which has led significant segments of the Israeli right away from the commitment to ruling over the West Bank forever. The settlements certainly are an issue. But from Netanyahu’s point of view – and that of a majority of Israelis – the chief obstacles to peace are Hamas’s Iran-sponsored terrorism, Palestinian Authority political dysfunction, and the refusal of Arab rulers around the region to provide the Palestinians financial support and political leadership.

Though devoting only one paragraph to it at Bar-Ilan, Netanyahu declared that “the Iranian threat still is before us in full force.” And he proclaimed that “the greatest danger to Israel, to the Middle East, and to all of humanity, is the encounter between extremist Islam and nuclear weapons.” Although he did not elaborate Israel’s plan of action, he said nothing to retreat from his well-known position that Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, stated that he had discussed Iran with Obama, would take it up the following week with Europeans, and had been “working tirelessly for many years to form an international front against Iran arming itself with nuclear armaments.”

Meanwhile, for many onlookers in the United States and elsewhere, the popular uprising in Iran has encouraged the hope that internal reform might dispose of the menace posed by the mullahs. Unfortunately, as much as the leader of the Iranian opposition, former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi, may have been radicalized by Tehran’s election fraud, the people’s protests, and the government’s violent crackdown, and as much as these dramatic events may have opened up a rift not merely between the people and the regime but within the regime, Mousavi is still a child of the Islamic Revolution and a creature of the establishment and remains unlikely anytime soon to lead a revolutionary overthrow of either. Yet with thousands of centrifuges spinning away to produce highly enriched uranium, and, on an entirely separate track, its development of technology for the production of plutonium proceeding apace, Iran gets closer with every day to owning nuclear weapons.

Given the dangerousness of the neighborhood in which they live and the immediacy of the threat, it is no surprise that for Israelis Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons remains front and center. Ordinary citizens regard a nuclear-armed Iran as a game changer, the greatest threat they have ever faced. In previous decades, no matter how grim their circumstances, Israelis could console themselves that they had an ace in the hole. They counted on their sizable stockpile of nuclear weapons – never officially declared though never officially denied and not subject to the slightest doubt among Israelis – to create a line in the sand beyond which no enemy would dare venture. A nuclear Iran, they now reasonably fear, would nullify this enormous technological advantage and would embolden Hezbollah, Hamas, and the array of other transnational Islamist terrorist networks beginning with the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic Jihad that proliferate in the Middle East.

Conversations over the last few weeks with more than a dozen members of Israel’s larger national security community – right and left, scholars and military men and women, some coming out of the army and others the air force, some with decades of experience in military intelligence and others in clandestine operations, some former Knesset members and others former, current, and soon-to-be advisers to prime ministers – suggest it is fair to conclude that the professionals agree with the public that Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons is a game changer. Among them, there is a consensus that Israel has the technological capacity to undertake a military strike that would inflict heavy damage on Iran’s nuclear program. Such a strike, they also believe, would involve unprecedented challenges and risks, including the likelihood of a significant military response by Iran and its allies. Accordingly, an urgent internal debate is well underway in Israel concerning the circumstances in which the country should strike, alternative options, and, in the event that Iran does acquire nuclear weapons, the structure of an effective containment regime.

Israel being Israel, for every three experts you talk to on any particular issue you will hear at least four aggressively argued opinions. Nevertheless, a fairly consistent picture emerges, if not of a single proper Iran policy, then of the constellation of factors that Israel must consider in forming one.

Most countries are reluctant to discuss the details of their offensive capabilities because they don’t want to provide useful information to their enemies. Israel is no different. Nonetheless, the experts with whom I spoke were willing to discuss in broad outline Israel’s capacity to destroy or substantially degrade Iran’s nuclear facilities. All would be delighted to see engagement, diplomacy, or sanctions succeed. All emphasized that a military strike must be the last resort, chosen only after every other option has been fully exploited. All believe that a green light from the United States, or at least a yellow light, would be indispensable. And they seem convinced that Israel has good intelligence about vital Iranian targets and could, if necessary, with a combination of aircraft and ballistic missiles, bring enough firepower to bear to set the Iranian program back far enough to justify the substantial risks.

Certainly this is the view, in broad outline, of Isaac Ben-Israel, and he should know. After graduating from high school in 1967, he joined the Israeli Air Force and served for more than 35 years. Now a Tel Aviv University professor teaching strategic studies and the history and philosophy of science, Ben-Israel helped plan the attack in 1981 on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, rose to the rank of major general, holding positions as head of the operations research branch of the air force and as head of research and development in the Israel Defense Forces and the ministry of defense, and served in the Knesset as a member of the centrist Kadima party. He continues to advise defense industries in Israel and abroad about technological and strategic issues.

Ben-Israel went so far as to characterize as “very reasonable” Center for Strategic and International Studies scholars Abdullah Toukan and Anthony H. Cordesman’s “Study on a Possible Israeli Strike on Iran’s Nuclear Development Facilities” published in March. Relying on open source intelligence, Toukan and Cordesman analyze in formidable technical detail Iranian nuclear targets, Israeli mission capabilities, Iranian defenses, Israeli defenses, and the military and political consequences of an Israeli attack. They conclude that an Israeli strike force would involve about 80 F-15s and F-16s (almost a fifth of their fighter aircraft); all 9 Israeli aerial tankers to refuel the fighters on their way to and from Iran; a likely flight route north over the Mediterranean, then east along the Syria-Turkey border, crossing briefly over Iraq, before heading into Iran. The strike would probably concentrate on three “critical nodes in Iran’s nuclear infrastructure”: the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, the Esfahan nuclear research center and uranium conversion facility, and the Arak heavy water plant and future plutonium production reactors. The authors stress that the mission would be complex, high-risk, and without solid assurance of success.

Another possibility is that Israel could attack Natanz, Esfahan, and Arak with approximately 50 Jericho III land-based long range ballistic missiles. This option has received relatively little attention even though, as Toukan and Cordesman point out, it may be “much more feasible than using combat aircraft” and certainly poses less risk to Israeli pilots and hardware. Still another possibility for attacking Iranian nuclear targets, though not discussed by Toukan and Cordesman, is some combination of combat aircraft and Jericho III missiles.

Even on the heroic assumption that the attack went exactly as planned, Israelis evaded Iranian air defenses and kept their losses to a minimum, and Iran’s nuclear program was set back substantially, Israel would face considerable costs, both military and political.

The military costs might be serious but would be manageable, Israeli experts believe. They envisage six possible responses to an Israeli attack.

First, Iran, lacking a capable air force, might launch Shahab-3 long range ballistic missiles at Israeli cities and probably at Dimona, Israel’s nuclear facility in the Negev. Israeli experts are confident that their Arrow anti-ballistic missile defense system, which has performed superbly in tests, would destroy most incoming Iranian missiles. Those that got through would have no more explosive power than Iraq’s 1991 Scud missiles, which killed only one Israeli and did little damage to infrastructure. Missiles tipped with biological or chemical weapons are a different story and would provoke a massive and remorseless Israeli response.

At the same time, it is by no means certain that Iran would launch a retaliatory missile strike. Some Israeli experts believe that Israel’s capacity to attack decisively nonnuclear Iranian targets, including the power grid and oil refineries, might deter Iran.

Second, Iran might order Hezbollah into action. Since the 2006 Lebanon war, in which Israel killed one third of Hezbollah’s fighters, that group has rearmed and upgraded. It has enlarged its arsenal of rockets and missiles from about 12,000 at the outset of hostilities in July 2006 (4,000 of which Hezbollah fired at Israel that summer) to roughly 40,000. In sufficient quantities, these can cause suffering in Israel. But in determining whether to attack, Hezbollah might take into account that Israel learned lessons from 2006 and that, in anticipation of another round of fighting, it has prepared to deliver a knockout blow.

Third, Iran might demand that Syria attack Israel. But given that Syria’s conventional forces are no match for Israel’s and that it did not respond militarily when Israel destroyed its partly constructed nuclear facility at Deir al-Zour in 2007, there is a good chance that Syria will decline to get involved.

Fourth, Iran might order terrorist cells around the world to attack synagogues, Israeli embassies, and similar targets. This would have the disadvantage for Iran of shifting the focus of international attention from Israel’s preemptive air strike to Iran’s criminality.

Fifth, Iran might attack American targets in Iraq and foment unrest among Iraqi Shia. This too might backfire, both because it would bring America into the fight and because the community of interests between Arab Iraqi Shia and Persian Iranian Shia is limited.

Sixth, Iran might attack Persian Gulf shipping. But the fragile Iranian economy is at least as reliant as that of any Gulf country on the free flow of oil. And American firepower would end Iran’s ability to threaten shipping within days.

The political costs could prove greater for Israel. Whether an Israeli military attack failed or succeeded, and particularly if it succeeded, Iran and the forces of radical Islam around the world would vehemently argue that Israel’s unprovoked aggression provided irrefutable proof that nuclear weapons are critical for Iran and for radical Islam, if only for purely defensive purposes. Europeans, moreover, would ramp up their condemnatory rhetoric, proclaiming Israel the paramount threat to international order and demanding that Israel, which took it upon itself to disarm Iran, itself submit to international inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Toukan and Cordesman stumble in asserting that Israel would pay a heavy cost among Arab states. It’s true, as they write, that Arab states “will not condone any attack on Iran.” Indeed, the Gulf Arabs would probably condemn Israel harshly. Egypt might mobilize troops and send some into the Sinai. And all Arab states would join the rest of the world in calling for the imposition of international sanctions. But that would be for popular consumption. Israeli experts are as convinced as they are of anything that behind closed doors, Sunni Arab rulers would breathe a huge sigh of relief at the destruction of what they regard as the principal strategic threat to their security, a nuclear armed Shiite Iran seeking hegemony in the Gulf and exporting Shiite-style Islamic revolution around the world.

Still, after the costs and benefits are weighed and the enigmas and imponderables are given their due, the Israeli experts come back to where they begin: Only after every other option has been exhausted should a military strike be launched. No one else went as far as former Mossad head Efraim Halevy, who warned that an Israeli attack would “change the whole configuration of the Middle East,” producing “a chasm between Israel and the rest of the region” that would have “effects that would last 100 years.” By far the dominant view in Israel is the view espoused by John McCain: The only thing worse than the consequences of an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would be the consequences of a nuclear Iran.

Short of a full-scale military strike, Israel also has a clandestine option involving the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, sabotage of Iranian facilities, and targeted killings. Nor would this represent a new policy. As Ben-Israel, choosing his words carefully, pointed out, Israeli national security experts have been warning that Iran was 5 years away from producing a nuclear weapon for the last 20. Why do you suppose, he asked, it has taken Iran so long? After all, he observed, 60 years ago in the middle of World War II, it took the United States only a few years to produce the first atomic bomb, and no country that has set its mind to it has taken more than 5 to 10 years. Leaving me to draw the proper inference, Ben-Israel emphasized that clandestine operations can delay but will not destroy Iran’s nuclear program. And the experts agree that time is running out: Absent dramatic action – by the United States, the international community, Israel, or some combination – Iran is on track to join the nuclear club sometime between 2011 and 2014.

For a variety of reasons – President Obama’s attempt to engage Iran may prove futile, the international community may be unable to maintain effective sanctions, the mullahs may hang on to power, an Israeli attack might fail, Israel might elect not to attack Iran – Israelis are compelled to contemplate the structure of an effective containment regime. The challenges are immense. Realists argue that containment based upon the doctrine of mutual assured destruction worked for the 40-year Cold War and will work in the Middle East. But they overlook that in the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 it almost failed.

The realists also rely on a facile analogy. The distinctive variables that Iran and the Middle East add to the mix cast grave doubts on any easy application of Cold War logic. Iran speaks explicitly about wiping out Israel; the Soviet Union never so spoke about the United States. Iran is inspired by a religious faith that celebrates martyrdom and contemplates apocalypse; the Soviet Union was driven by a secular ideology that sought satisfaction in this world. And Iran has no dialogue with Israel; the Soviet Union maintained constant communication with the United States.

These complicating factors make it all the more imperative for Israel, if it wants to construct a successful containment regime, to convey to Iran that it has a devastating second strike capability and is prepared to use it. In addition, it would be useful from the Israeli point of view if the United States were to make Iran understand that America would treat an attack on Israel as an attack on it. And it would provide greater assurance still if Russia were to deliver a similar message.

But because, as Ben-Israel observed, “a guarantee from another nation is not a reliable deterrence policy,” the critical element in a successful containment regime would be Israel’s own unambiguous and compelling promise of swift and devastating retaliation. The mullahs may reasonably think that if they detonate a bomb over Tel Aviv while possessing nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach London, the Americans might hesitate to attack Iran on Israel’s behalf. Therefore, should Iran obtain the bomb, an effective Israeli deterrent, according to Ben-Israel, would require Israel to demonstrate publicly its ability to inflict catastrophic damage on Iran and at the same time remove any doubt about Israel’s willingness, in the event of a first strike by Iran, to do so.

But deterring an attack by nuclear-tipped Iranian missiles is only the beginning of the challenges that a containment regime would face. What would be a proportional response if the Iranians or their Hezbollah fighters slipped a small boat within a mile of Haifa and detonated a small nuclear device killing 10,000 Israelis?

And how ought Israel respond to – and containment work against – the myriad other dangers spawned by a nuclear Iran? The moment that Iran announces its possession of nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and perhaps Kuwait, taking to heart Iran’s declared hostility to Sunni Islam and determination to obtain hegemony in the Gulf, will go shopping for their own. Egypt and Turkey will not be far behind. As if a nuclear-armed Pakistan were not worry enough, the vulnerability of these regimes to overthrow by the forces of radical Islam heightens the possibility of the world’s most dangerous weapons falling into the hands of many of the world’s most dangerous actors.

Furthermore, once the Middle East went poly-nuclear, it would be only a matter of time until a suitcase nuclear bomb fell, leaked, or was placed into terrorists’ hands. Even before that, radical Islamists throughout the Middle East – particularly Hezbollah and Hamas – would receive a tremendous psychological boost from a nuclear Iran and be emboldened by their patron’s nuclear umbrella. A nuclear Iran would further undermine the chance for peace between Israel and the Palestinians and Israel and Syria by tempting waverers in the region, those who had begun to abandon the idea that Israel might someday disappear, to once again contemplate an Israel-free Middle East.

In sum, containment is a grim option. So is a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. And relying on prayer for Mousavi and the Iranian people to overthrow the mullahs is no option at all, at least not for the state of Israel, the front line in Islamic radicalism’s war against the West. Thus, in the short time left before Israel is compelled by an Iran fast closing in on a nuclear capability to choose between two grim options, Israel’s highest priority will be to persuade an equivocating United States, a dithering Europe, and an obstructionist Russia that a nuclear Iran is not just an Israeli problem or a Middle Eastern problem but a problem for the United States and the world.

 

THE WEST’S SILENCE HAS CONSEQUENCES FOR IRAN

Silence has consequences for Iran: The less we protest, the more people will die
By Jose Maria Aznar
The Wall Street Journal
June 27, 2009

If there hadn’t been dissidents in the Soviet Union, the Communist regime never would have crumbled. And if the West hadn’t been concerned about their fate, Soviet leaders would have ruthlessly done away with them. They didn’t because the Kremlin feared the response of the Free World.

Just like the Soviet dissidents who resisted communism, those who dare to march through the streets of Tehran and stand up against the Islamic regime founded by the Ayatollah Khomeini 30 years ago represent the greatest hope for change in a country built on the repression of its people. At stake is nothing less than the legitimacy of a system incompatible with respect for individual rights. Also at stake is the survival of a theocratic regime that seeks to be the dominant power in the region, the indisputable spiritual leader of the Muslim world, and the enemy of the West.

The Islamic Republic that the ayatollahs have created is not just any power. To defend a strict interpretation of the Quran, Khomeini created the Pasdaran, the Revolutionary Guard, which today is a true army. To expand its ideology and influence Iran has not hesitated to create, sustain and use proxy terrorist groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. And to impose its fundamentalist vision beyond its borders, Iran is working frantically to obtain nuclear weapons.

Those who protest against the blatant electoral fraud that handed victory to the fanatical Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are in reality demanding a change of regime. Thus, the regime has resorted to beating and shooting its citizens in a desperate attempt to squash the pro-democracy movement.

This is no time for hesitation on the part of the West. If, as part of an attempt to reach an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, the leaders of democratic nations turn their backs on the dissidents they will be making a terrible mistake.

President Obama has said he refuses to “meddle” in Iran’s internal affairs, but this is a poor excuse for passivity. If the international community is not able to stop, or at least set limits on, the repressive violence of the Islamic regime, the protesters will end up as so many have in the past – in exile, in prison, or in the cemetery. And with them, all hope for change will be gone.

To be clear: Nobody in the circles of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei or Ahmadinejad is going to reward us for silence or inaction. On the contrary, failing to support the regime’s critics will leave us with an emboldened Ahmadinejad, an atomic Iran, and dissidents that are disenchanted and critical of us. We cannot talk about freedom and democracy if we abandon our own principles.

Some do not want to recognize the spread of freedom in the Middle East. But it is clear that after decades of repression – religious and secular – the region is changing.

The recent elections in Lebanon are a clear example. The progressive normalization of Iraq is another. It would be a shame, particularly in the face of such regional progress, if our passivity gave carte blanche to a tyrannical regime to finish off the dissidents and persist with its revolutionary plans.

Delayed public displays of indignation may be good for internal political consumption. But the consequences of Western inaction have already materialized. Watching videos of innocent Iranians being brutalized, it’s hard to defend silence.

 

MEALY-MOUTHED STRATEGIC DITHERING

Iran and the Tragedy of Bad Ideas: The lesson of ‘The Stoning of Soraya M.’
By Andrew Klavan
The Wall Street Journal
June 23, 2009

There are times when wrestling with the mysteries of storytelling can be revelatory. I recently saw the film “The Stoning of Soraya M.,” and, as a professional storyteller, found myself puzzled by how compelling a tale it was.

Based on actual events recounted in a book by expatriate Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam, the movie tells of the brutal 1986 judicial murder of a woman falsely accused of adultery in the Islamic slave state of Iran. Having, as a woman, no right to defend herself, she was horrifically stoned to death in accordance with Shariah law – one of an untold number of Iranian women to suffer such a fate.

It’s a very well-made film, passionate, powerful and beautifully acted. But by rights, the story shouldn’t work. The plot is too inevitable to qualify as a drama, and it is not concerned enough with individual character to rank as classical tragedy. It does derive some power from the sheer awfulness of its central event, but stories with nothing but awfulness to recommend them usually fail.

Yet this one grips you, haunts you – and for a long time after I saw it, I couldn’t figure out why.

The events now unfolding in Iran, some 23 years after Soraya’s death, provide the answer. The movie’s detailed and unflinching depiction of a world and a worldview make “The Stoning of Soraya M.” a different kind of tragedy, what you might call a tragedy of culture or a tragedy of bad ideas.

The tragedy of bad ideas unfolds from a moral flaw in a worldview or philosophy as inevitably as classical tragedy unfolds from a flaw in individual character. Tragedies of bad ideas are the most common, pervasive and destructive man-made mass disasters. Yet our thinking class has become powerless to oppose them or even recognize them for what they are.

The reason is that too many of our intellectuals are themselves ensnared in a bad idea. That idea is multiculturalism – the notion that no system or government is inherently better than any other, that the rules of morality are just a doctrine written by history’s winners. Thus there are no enduring human truths, only “narratives” by which almost any beastliness can be explained away if committed by a people with a claim to having been victimized by a dominant culture.

This bad idea has all but silenced our nation at a moment when the world most needs our voice. Thousands of people in Iran are marching in the streets, protesting a sham election, heroically risking life and limb to try to tear some little breathing space in the smothering shroud of theocracy. Yet President Barack Obama, the leader of the most powerful free nation on earth, responds with mealy-mouthed strategic dithering. The man who in his recent speech in Cairo drew an absurd moral equivalence between Western errors and Islam’s unstinting history of oppression has condemned the Iranian government’s violent reaction to the demonstrations but remains canny and vague in his support of the protestors.

This is too shrewd by half. There comes a time in the affairs of men when bad ideas can be – and therefore must be – powerfully opposed by good ones.

Compare, if you can bear it, President Ronald Reagan’s response to the 1982 crackdown on the Polish union Solidarity by the Soviet Union: “The struggle in the world today for the hearts and minds of mankind is based on one simple question: Is man born to be free, or slave? In country after country, people have long known the answer to that question. We are free by divine right.” In less than a decade, in startlingly large measure because this one idea found so mighty a voice, the Soviet Union was gone.

The “Stoning of Soraya M.” is a compelling story because it puts into one life and death a nation’s suffering – a region’s suffering – in the snares of a philosophy antithetical to individual liberty. If this were a world of narratives instead of truths, that would be just one more narrative to pile on the others. In fact, it’s a tragedy, as every heart must know.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.